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Villa Maria showcases New Zealand wines with


Snooth Virtual Tasting of Villa Maria, New Zealand wines.

"The origin for Villa Maria came about from George (the founder) choosing “Villa” as a common name for a house in New Zealand and “Maria” a popular name from Croatia (where George's family is from)."

Tuesday evening I had the opportunity to taste six wines from Villa Maria winery in New Zealand. I tasted live, via video, with Villa Maria winemaker Helen Morrison, hosted by snooth media co-founder Mark Angelillo, along with numerous wine media friends.

This tasting was particularly interesting because some of the wines we tasted are just being introduced to the US market. We sampled a key part of the Villa Maria portfolio. Impressive wines.

Winemaker Helen Morrison
Winemaker Helen Morrison was engaging, her passion for winemaking obvious. She seems an evident reason the wines showed so beautifully. Her intensity made me curious about wine trends in New Zealand. I asked, regarding wine preferences and going beyond the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir we love. I asked, "What else was on the varietal horizon for New Zealand?" 

Helen replied that there is a huge demand for Chardonnay from New Zealand! Exciting to me, especially after drinking the Villa Maria Taylors Pass Single Vineyard Chardonnay. *See the Side Note at the bottom for more of what Helen Shared about New Zealand wine trends.

Villa Maria wines are described as fruit-driven, showcasing the best of the country’s distinct style. I agree. Wine grapes are sourced from New Zealand’s premium grape growing regions, including Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The winery Sir George Fistonich started in 1961 is still family owned and stands as an icon of quality and innovation in New Zealand winemaking. In 2017, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world.

Of the six wines I sampled on Tuesday, I was thrilled by all of them! That does not always happen. Following are photos and comments about each of the wines I tasted Tuesday, through the remainder of the week. Lovely all! Prices are unbelievably reasonable, go find some Villa Maria wines for yourself and your friends. Thank me later.

Note: The bubbles went first, of course, because they are bubbles. The Chardonnay was next with dinner, and as I write I’m sipping on the last of the Pinot Noir and Merlot blend. Yum! Rose’ and Sauvignon Blanc remain for the weekend. Time to find some shrimp for the grill.



1. Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2016
ABV: 12.5%
Closure: Screw Cap (my first bottle of bubbles this way)
SRP: $15
Sample provided by winery

OMG...super zippy Sauvignon Blanc bubbles. Somewhat spritzy to frizzante, with gentle bubbles, but nothing gentle about the taste (CO2 was injected in the bottle, similar to soda pop for the bubbles.) Lime and grapefruit flavors dominated with crazy acid. A fun change of pace and a new to me sparkling wine experience. Suggest pairing with cheese, melon or white fish. Tasty fun! Mussles or fish tacos with mango salsa would be amazing with this bottle of bubbles! And crab...

Yes! Bubbly and crab.

At home I was inspired to try what became a beautiful pairing with crab ceviche. Just a squeeze of 1/2 of a lime, chopped onion and snap peas with a pinch of salt on the crab. A delight! Also paired well with Strawberry Rainier Cherries. A must find wine.
Strongly Recommended!

Essential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

2. 2016 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
ABV: 12.5%
Closure: Screw Cap
SRP: $13
Sample provided by winery

Softer body than the bubbles, more lush than zippy, with nice citrus flavors. Very drinkable. It was agreed by the group that this wine was a patio, pool, and beach wine. It is a blend of fruit from the Awatere and Wairau Valleys in New Zealand. Flavors of lemon grass, herbs, lime, and white grapefruit. Delicious. Mussles were the first thing that came to mind, and raw oysters. Or just sand and surf. Enjoyed over five days.
Strongly Recommended!

Rose' done my way.

3. Private Bin Rosé Hawkes Bay 2016
ABV: 12.5%
Closure: Screw Cap
SRP: $14
Sample provided by winery

Flavors of strawberry, cherry, it was creamy, and lifted, round, more body than expected, almost off-dry because it is from a warmer site. Fruit is from Hawkes Bay on the eastern coast of the North island (some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.) Predominantly made from Merlot with a touch of Arneis. Pretty color, pale watermelon. Screams summer wine, perfect for lunch, or as an aperitif wine. Pair with NW smoked salmon. Or anything a bit spicy. My speed. Enjoyed over five days. Who's surprised I liked this wine?
Strongly Recommended!

Add to your must buy list.

4. Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2015
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screw Cap
SRP: $45
Sample provided by the winery

From the Awatere Valley – Chardonnay clone 95, planted in a stony location. Hand picked, whole bunch pressed. An exceptional vintage from this warmer site with cool nights. Natural and cultured yeast. 100% barrel fermentation, 25% new French oak, 75% seasoned French oak. 9 months on lees. Natural spring malolactic fermentation. 100% Chardonnay.

Absolutely wonderful dinner with this stunning Villa Maria single vineyard Chardonnay.

Yum! Flinty, pear, toastiness, smoke, spice, minerality, nice acid, creamy, dry, lemon. Grown on one of three terraces. Taylors Pass Vineyard is an awesome site. Pair with salmon, grilled chicken, pork, lobster, crab or with grilled bratwurst. This wine did not linger. Enjoyed with grilled chicken and asparagus. Thank you!
Highly Recommended!

Still captivated by New Zealand Pinot Noir.

5. Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screw Cap
SRP: $26
Sample provided by winery

We discussed site location when we tasted this wine. We really could have used an extra hour for tasting and discussion, as it was, we were pressed for time. Clay based soils, or deep silt sites are best for Pinot Noir said Helen. Stony sites will provide floral and fruit notes. Versatile, think of temperature, and chill. Vineyards: 55% Wairau Valley and 45% Awatere Valley. 100% Pinot Noir.

Dried herbs and cherries with some rose petals on the nose. Cherry, spice, fine and integrated with balanced acidity on the palate. Lovely lingering finish. For pairing, think mushrooms, savory, and earthy flavors. Helen recommended a mushroom risotto. I’d also suggest stewed beets, lamb, turkey, duck and pig cheeks. My speed and one of the reasons I remain captivated by New Zealand wines. Enjoyed this wine over four days. Sigh.
Strongly Recommended!

Beautiful vintage!

6. Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet 2013 Hawkes Bay
Blend: 69% Merlot, 22% Cabernet, 7% Malbec, 2% Cab Franc
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screw Cap
SRP: $20
Sample provided by winery

Fruit matured well because 2013 was hot. Hawkes Bay was declared in drought, with a long warm summer. 2013 is now considered a “classic” if not exceptional vintage. Aged in 15% new oak barrels for 18 months.

Hello. Bigger wine than expected, with an herbal note, lavender, blackberry and tar on the nose. Drank fresh and dry, with medium tannin, black fruit, spice, rich with blueberry, chocolate, tar and blackberry on the long lingering finish. Not exactly what I was expecting. Quite pleased. Potential to age for at least another five years. Well done. Pair alone, yes that good, or enjoy with beef, mushrooms or anything off of the grill. Delicious. Enjoyed over four days.
Strongly Recommended!


Villa Maria Marlborough

Phone: +64 3 520 8472
Fax +64 3 520 8471

Villa Maria Estate Marlborough Winery
Cnr Paynters & New Renwick Roads
Fairhall, Blenheim


Villa Maria Auckland

Phone: +64 9 255 0660
Fax +64 9 255 0661

Opening times
9am - 6pm Monday - Friday
9am - 4pm Saturday, Sunday

118 Montgomerie Road
Mangere, Manukau
New Zealand

PO Box 43046,
Mangere, Manukau 2153
New Zealand


Long time readers know that I am a huge fan of New Zealand wine. So much so, that in 2012 I began a New Zealand wine blog, kiwidaydreaming, with my friend Julie. While the blog has languished, and the original domain name has expired, my passion for New Zealand wine has not. The Villa Maria wines thrilled!

Lovely wines all!

Many thanks to Helen Morrison of Villa Maria wines and snooth media for inviting me to participate. New Zealand remains fond in my heart. One of these years we will visit.

*Side note: Helen also said, "While consumers are still appreciating the signature Sauvignon Blanc, very popular still, now Pinot Gris has become popular in New Zealand. Yes, the UK is still Sauvignon Blanc dominated, but Arneis and even Albariño have become fashionable from New Zealand. They are alternative varieties, so people are curious about them. So yes, Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular New Zealand wine in the US, though people are trying other New Zealand varieties." 
Win win in my book. I find it exciting and a positive trend that the market loves New Zealand wines and that there is motivated interest in other varieties. I’m a big fan of Albariño and Grüner Veltliner, both now being grown in New Zealand. Bravo New Zealand! The future is tasting good.


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